Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/188

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

either side; so that he could not lose his way in the fog, in the snow, or in the darkness, without falling into the deep waters of the gulf on the right hand, or into the raging billows of the sea on the left. He was travelling on, in blissful ignorance, between these two abysses.

The Isthmus of Portland was at that time extremely sharp and rugged. No sign of its former configuration remains to-day. Since the idea of manufacturing Portland stone into cement was first conceived, the cliffs have been subjected to operations which have completely changed their original appearance. Calcareous lias, slate, and trap are still to be found there, rising from layers of conglomerate like teeth out of a gum. But the pickaxe has broken up and levelled those bristling, rugged peaks which were once the homes of the eagles. The summits no longer exist where the labbes and the skua gulls used to flock, soaring, like the envious, to sully high places. In vain you seek the tall monolith called Godolphin,—an old British word signifying "white eagle." In summer you may still gather on these cliffs (pierced and perforated like a sponge) rosemary, pennyroyal, wild hyssop, and sea-fennel, which when infused makes a good cordial, and that herb full of knots, which grows in the sand and from which they make matting; but you no longer find grey amber or black tin, or that triple species of slate,—one sort green, one blue, and the third the colour of sage-leaves. The foxes, the badgers, the otters, and the martens have taken themselves off; on the cliffs of Portland, as well as at the extremity of Cornwall, where there were at one time chamois, none remain. The people still fish in some inlets for plaice and pilchards; but the shy salmon no longer ascend the Wey, between Michaelmas and Christmas, to spawn. Nor can one see there, as